SPEECH: How the Planning System is failing climate change

Today Mark spoke about climate change and the abject failure of South Australia's planning system to deal with it.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Today, I want to talk about climate change and the abject failure of South Australia's planning system to deal with it. This morning, I attended the State Planning Commission Assessment Panel (usually referred to as SCAP). I was at the SCAP meeting this morning because I had lodged an objection to a new fossil fuel power station that was being approved for the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

This is not the first time that I have done that; in fact, I think it is the third time. As I said to the committee members this morning, 'You've heard this before but I am going to keep saying it: as planners, you have a responsibility to take climate change seriously.' I know my words fell on deaf ears because they always do. Planners, like a lot of professions, are in their silos.

They are in their narrow, professional silos. They are interested in how something looks, they are interested in how far back it might be set from the road and they are interested in noise pollution, but they are not interested in the existential threat posed by climate change. It beggars belief that a planning body in this state can assess a fossil fuel power station when the applicant has not at all identified the greenhouse gas emissions—not at all, not one skerrick.

When people like me raise these issues with the State Planning Commission Assessment Panel, their response is, 'Nothing to do with us. We can't talk about climate change. We can't think about climate change.' They just ignore it.

I know that for a fact, because when I asked them back in 2018 if they could tell me what advice they had given the planning minister in relation to climate change and fossil fuel power stations, they said, 'Consideration was not able to be given to the wider strategic implications of the proposal as raised in public representations.' That is code for, 'Parnell was banging on about climate change but we don't want to talk about that.' This is our State Planning Commission. Whilst I did not stay around for their deliberation this morning, which was in secret, I am sure that will be their exact response this time.

What is this power station I am talking about? Members might recall that around three years ago, we were facing a potential power situation where the experts thought maybe a blackout could happen. The state government bought six combined diesel/gas-fired turbines with the idea that they would sit on stand-by, and if we needed them, we could quickly turn them on and avoid a blackout.

Guess what? They were not needed. I did not oppose them because I thought if that is what the experts were saying, I would rather burn a bit of diesel than have a statewide blackout; no-one wants that. They were not needed in the first year, I think they were turned on for one day in the second year, and they were ultimately sold off. One of the companies that bid for them and won was Infergen. Infergen now wants to relocate these fossil fuel turbines from Lonsdale to near the Bolivar sewerage works.

In terms of location, the neighbour is already pretty smelly so it is probably not going to have local impacts, but will it have global climate impacts? Absolutely; yes, it will. Just on their own assessment of operating 10 per cent of the time, it is the equivalent of an extra 11,000 petrol cars on the streets of South Australia every year. That is a serious addition to our carbon load.

Yet, when the Planning Commission is assessing whether or not to approve this new fossil fuel generator, their argument is, 'Nothing to do with us.' It really does beggar belief. I am certainly not on their Christmas card list and I do not expect to be added now, but I did make a comment to InDaily when they reported on the business of the SCAP some time ago. I reported that they cannot just blame the government of the day for bad policy. The SCAP itself must take responsibility for not taking into account relevant consideration that the community demand of them.

The question I posed to InDaily was: what planet do these people live on? Clearly, it is not on planet Earth. The planning system deserves to, and should, play a major role in mitigating climate change. Instead, I am very sorry to say that rather than being part of the solution, in South Australia the planning profession is part of the problem.